Bleeding Through: Layers of Los Angeles, 1920-1986 is an interactive narrative that combines a database detective story with a digital city symphony and a metanarrative reflection on storytelling where the journey through the evidence is more exciting than the crime itself. Set in a three-mile radius near downtown Los Angeles, this DVD-ROM explores Boyle Heights, Bunker Hill, Chavez Ravine, Chinatown, Echo Park, Little Tokyo and other contested locations that helped shape the city’s cultural history. These ethnically complex neighborhoods are documented through archival photographs and films and through contemporary images that either reproduce or evoke them.
The interface enables the narrative to be navigated in three ways. Positioned within a small window, author Norman Klein tells the story of Molly, the fictional protagonist of his novella who is based on a real life person and who may have murdered one of her husbands. He invites us to collaborate with him in writing this fictional life. Or we can explore what Molly never noticed—the back-stories of real life people whose mini-memoirs preserve histories that otherwise might have been lost. And finally, the project leads us to reflect on this act of database storytelling and its cultural implications, particularly when set within L.A.’s urban dream factory. The contrast between past and present is most dramatic and uncanny in the back stories, where one can slide fluidly between “bleed-throughs”—old and new photographs of the same cityscape taken from precisely the same angle—which enable us to make buildings instantaneously emerge or vanish.
Drawing on hundreds of photographs, newspaper clippings and films from the archives of USC, the Los Angeles Public Library and the Automobile Club of Southern California with additional material from personal collections, “Bleeding Through” helps us refigure our vision of Los Angeles, particularly if it has been based primarily on representations from Hollywood mainstream movies.
Produced by The Labyrinth Project at USC in collaboration with ZKM.